Thomas hopes for CIMB Classic hat-trick


Kuala Lumpur: Anirban Lahiri got off to a flying start with a five-under 67 in the first round to be at tied eighth in the CIMB Classic at the TPC Kuala Lumpur here on Thursday.

Xander Schauffele has only had two weeks off since winning the Tour Championship, and his Rookie of the Year trophy hasn't even had a chance to start collecting dust yet.

One shot behind Smith are Thailand's Poom Saksansin, American Keegan Bradley and freshly crowned Tour Championship victor Xander Schauffele, also from the US.

Smith, 24, victor along with Jonas Blixt at last April's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, made eight birdies in his first start of the new tour season. His previous best start in 63 tour events is a T-2 at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he eventually finished T-11.

US PGA champion Justin Thomas has won the event for the past two years and started the defence of his title with an opening 70 that featured five birdies and three bogeys. He changed the script today after hitting the ground running with four red circles in his first six holes.

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"It was boring, which I guess is a good thing out here", said Schauffele, who was paired with Thomas in the opening round. "I pretty much tried to copy everything he did because I figured he's a good guy to imitate out here".

Lahiri, third a year ago at the same event, is coming of a tied-9th finish in the last start on the PGA Tour in the BMW Champion- ships, the third leg of the FedExCup play-offs.

Apart from Thomas, eight other major winners are in the restricted field of 78 at the $7 million tournament, including Americans Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink and Jason Dufner, and a trio of South Africans in Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. The Thai is one stroke behind Cameron Smith after the first round of the CIMB Classic.

Three players are tied for fifth with 66s: Kevin Na, Gary Woodland and Pat Perez.